Sandbar buoys installed to mark safety zone

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - First the warning signs went up around the He'eia Kea Harbor with the diagram of the new safety zone.  Then state crews dropped off the six buoys out in the bay designating the boundaries.  Inside the approximate 20 acre area people cannot drink or even have alcohol. They're not even supposed to come into the zone if they're under the influence but the key will be their conduct.

"If somebody comes in and has a body full of alcohol they can maintain their composure it's a higher level of proof to us so as long as they're not causing any problems we're not going to go out and look for people and say well you look inebriated and we're going to arrest you I mean if you're having fun with your family that's the whole purpose of this," said William Aila, Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair.

The safety zone is temporarily in effect on three day holiday weekends, including July Fourth, Labor Day and Admissions Day weekends.

People who frequent the harbor say it will take more than buoys to keep the peace.  There needs to be plenty of officers to enforce the rules.

"People still going to drink. You can do all you want like at the public parks, there's no drinking but they still do. Enforcement, that's the key to everything really," said Dave Wilson, Ewa Beach.  "The booze takes over and everybody becomes King Kong."

The new rules worry the new owner of the He'eia Pier General Store and Deli.

"We just took over the lease and of course long weekends are the busiest time over here. Guaranteed it will affect our business to some point," said Russ Inouye, He'eia Pier and General Store Co-Owner.  "It's just sad because 99.9 percent of the people that use that sandbar don't abuse it.  I just hope the people that caused a lot of this to happen learn from it and hopefully DLNR reassess the situation and can work it out for the people that don't abuse it and the people that do."

Captain Bob's Snorkeling Adventure is one of the few that actually has a liquor license from the Liquor Commission to drink out at the sandbar.  But even they won't be allowed to have alcohol with the new emergency rules.

"I think it might deter some people but it won't deter all the people out here," said Rallen Caya, Captain Bob's Snorkeling Adventure. "My solution, I think they should check for DUI's at the pier when they come back, like a DUI checkpoint."

The Honolulu Police Department will be patrolling Kamehameha Highway looking for drunk drivers.

The state will have extra crews out on boats and on the pier keeping an eye on people.  The DLNR director says the fines aren't set yet.  If caught people would have to show up for a state hearing to receive their punishment something he says could be as high as $10,000.

The long term solution is a bit murky at the moment.  If people don't behave it could lead to more severe changes.  The state could make all visitors get a permit to be at the sandbar or last call would be closing off the sandbar completely and turning it into a nature preserve.  A factor could come down to funding and if the state has the resources to adequately maintain staffing levels to enforce the safety rules.

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